Passport America, one of the nation’s largest discount campground clubs, will launch a mail forwarding service and a quarterly magazine in November as it tries to broaden its appeal to the growing number of RVers across the country.
“We’re beginning to diversify a little bit,” said Vernon Simmons, president and CEO of the Gulfport, Miss.-based campground club. “The magazine will add additional value to what we’re doing and help us stay in contact with our members.”
Passport America’s membership base has been growing at annual rate of 30% over the past five years, according to Simmons, and the club currently has more than 100,000 members who pay an annual fee of $44 for 50% discounts at more than 900 campgrounds across the country.
Mindful of competition from other discount campground clubs, however, the company is developing additional products and services to enhance its appeal and maintain its competitive edge.
Its new glossy magazine, RV America, will be distributed at member campgrounds and to members free of charge on a quarterly basis. The mail forwarding service, called RV America Mail Forwarding, will be offered for a monthly fee of $8.
Simmons said the mail forwarding service will provide added value to the growing number of full-time RVers joining the club in recent years.
Like other discount camping clubs, Simmons maintains, Passport America’s success reflects the fact that campgrounds often have empty sites and that they would rather fill at half price than have them remain empty.
“It doesn’t cost campgrounds anything to join,” says Dustin Hinkle, Passport America’s marketing director, who notes that campgrounds participating in the program can see significant increases in business, particularly during shoulder seasons. In addition, he explained, campgrounds can participate in a membership sales program to generate incremental income from their affiliation with Passport America.
RVers who purchase Passport America memberships, meanwhile, usually can earn back the cost of the annual membership in three or four nights, he said. “People say they save as much as $400 on a year’s membership if they’re full-timers,” Hinkle said.
Passport America, a privately held, family owned company, was founded in 1992 by Simmons’ father-in-law, Ray E. Fernandez, with the goal of being the lowest-cost club with the highest savings. Starting with about 25 member parks in Florida, Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia, the club quickly spread, adding more than 900 campgrounds in the past 10 years. The company currently has 19 employees.
Simmons said Passport America has focused on attracting campgrounds along interstate highways, because many of its members do not want to drive long distances off the beaten bath to stay in a campground. Looking to the future, Simmons is optimistic, particularly as Baby Boomers enter their prime RV buying years. “We’re projecting very strong growth,” he said.